September 13, 2018

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:

How Funny Does Comedy Need to Be? (Jesse David Fox, 9/04/18, Vox)

Why so serious? to quote a famous clown, is a question being asked about comedy more and more frequently by its consumers and by comedians themselves. To the point where some are questioning if it can even be called "comedy." "Nanette is more a TED Talk than a stand-up special" was a common refrain this summer. "Is Drew Michael even a stand-up special?" was a question I was asked about the audience-free HBO hour. To take it to scripted TV, I'm frequently reminded of a joke from Difficult People: "When did comedies become 30-minute dramas?" Comedians and comedy writers are increasingly pushing the bounds of what it means for something to be a comedy in the most basic sense, rewiring the relationship between comedies and jokes. So what is comedy without jokes? It's post-comedy.

Sure, it sounds pretentious; it's a pretentious shift, especially for a form that has always seemed allergic to pretension. But it seems the best way to describe comedy is that it's looking more like the frowning mask than the smiling one. I was confused to see some writers refer to Nanette, Hannah Gadsby's much discussed stand-up special that deconstructed how stand-up works and passionately made a case for the shortcomings of comedy as a medium for expressing pain, as "anti-comedy." Though it takes an antagonistic view of comedy, anti-comedy is already a thing (simply: it's a joke that's funny because it's not unfunny), and it is not what Hannah Gadsby did. My colleague Matt Zoller Seitz's term for serious comedies -- the "comedy in theory" -- is closer, but it's become increasingly clear that they are comedies in practice, formally redefining what comedy is itself.

Like post-rock, post-comedy uses the elements of comedy (be it stand-up, sitcom, or film) but without the goal of creating the traditional comedic result -- laughter -- instead focusing on tone, emotional impact, storytelling, and formal experimentation. The goal of being "funny" is optional for some or for the entirety of the piece. This is not the same as comedians making dramas or becoming serious actors, like we've seen in past generations. These pieces are comedies structurally.

Political correctness ultimately deprives the left of the option to be funny.

Posted by at September 13, 2018 5:13 PM

  

« WHICH WOULD EXPLAIN WHY IT'S SO POORLY WRITTEN: | Main | NO ONE HATES JUST MEXICANS: »